Among the many glib cliché phrases used around/to/about mothers is this idea of ‘finding the balance’.
When you’re younger, finding the balance maybe means not getting completely off your face every weekend so that occasionally you can spend a Sunday doing something other than watching Netflix and crying cause your face feels like it’s going to fall off. Or sometimes not working late and coming home to actually cook something in your own kitchen.
Then you have a baby, and you’re encouraged to spend all your time gazing at this little tiny newborn because you’ll NEVER have this time back again and who cares about having clean pants anyway? But in reality did any of us heed this advice and stop doing the housework completely?
And then you get to a point in life where you have two children who basically take up 100 per cent of your brain space and most of your time, energy (and patience of course). And you find yourself wondering whether you’ve got the balance right?
I mean sure, on the face of it, we’re swimming along kind of okay and nothing has sunk yet and we all normally get fed and washed during the course of any one day. Some days the baby naps on me and I get to watch mindless television for two hours while also looking at Instagram because there’s nothing else you can do when squashed beneath a quietly snoring infant. Some days I cook something vaguely presentable for dinner that isn’t beige and has more than one vegetable in it. Some days I wear make up. I’ve had a shower every day since I got home from hospital with Alexandra, my firstborn, because I decided not showering dipped below my ‘lowest acceptable standard’.
But the thought of all the things I didn’t do again – well I try not to go there else I’d never switch off and go to sleep at the end of each day.
Between feeding (a lovely mixture of bottles, weaning and food for the toddler too, as well as eating ourselves), expressing, changing bums, getting dressed, going out and actually doing something with the kids, nursery drop off, nursery pick up, baby class, endless shopping trips for avocado and parsnips (because the baby can actually eat them), rocking to sleep for naps, baths, washing up (I have no idea how we manage to use the entire contents of our kitchen cupboards approximately 46 times every single day), I feel like there are so many things which get pushed to the bottom of the list.
I agreed to write a press release for someone weeks ago and only just did it today, I have more ironing than I’d like hanging on the back of the bedroom door, the house is vacuumed fairly regularly but jobs like wiping down the skirting boards and cleaning the oven get left or just half arsed very occasionally, there are all sorts of other things languishing at the bottom of my to do list which may just never get done.
And yet, I do have spare time. Maybe if I used the time while I’m expressing more effectively, or didn’t watch as much Netflix in the evening, or maybe got up a bit earlier, then I could achieve so much more with my day. I’ve joked before that when Dylan comes home and asks me what I’ve done, my stock answer is: ‘kept the children alive’. Sometimes, I’m actually deadly serious and I couldn’t tell you anything else I’ve managed.
Have any of us really got the balance right?
Does anyone go to bed thinking: yep done everything without burning myself out? Does it matter that some days I look like I got dressed in the dark? That I’ve been to the gym three times I think since Max was born back in March? That I have utterly no idea how I’m going to squeeze any work into this scenario once I finish my maternity leave at the end of the year?
I would put ‘try and find a balance’ on my to do list, but we all know it’d end up right at the bottom somewhere between ‘learn how to make soup’ and ‘pluck your eyebrows – they’re a state’.
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x